A well-known U.S. hacker told FBI agents he took momentary control of an airplane’s engines mid-flight by hacking into its inflight entertainment system, according to a document filed in U.S. federal court. The claim was made by Chris Roberts, the founder of the cybersecurity firm One World Labs, who was escorted from a United Airlines flight last month after sending in-air tweets bragging that he could deploy the oxygen masks.
The allegation that Mr Roberts said he had affected the actual performance the plane was made in an FBI affidavit applying for a warrant to search his computer, iPad and other electronic items that were confiscated by investigators after the tweeting incident.
Roberts has not yet been charged with any crime. The allegations contained in the search warrant application have not been proven in court.
During two interviews with F.B.I. agents in February and March of this year, Roberts said he hacked the inflight entertainment systems of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, during flights, about 15 to 20 times between 2011 and 2014. In one instance, Roberts told the federal agents he hacked into an airplane’s thrust management computer and momentarily took control of an engine, according to an affidavit attached to the application for a search warrant.
“He stated that he successfully commanded the system he had accessed to issue the ‘CLB’ or climb command. He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights,” said the affidavit, signed by F.B.I. agent Mike Hurley.
Roberts also told the agents he hacked into airplane networks and was able “to monitor traffic from the cockpit system.”